He’s never been sick before
skin warm and ill-fitting, moist as he sinks into me,
that exhausted root for comfort and the fear that
he’ll be declining soon.
Children know to seek this oath from their mothers,
the affirmation when the darkness comes
and they feel as though they will never stop ailing.
I can feel it swallow him—skin pale, lukewarm and halfhearted
the lids of his eyes bending over yellowing whites,
each heavy and brimming with unease.
I feel him wilt like day old flowers in my arms
and at my breast, the inaudible cry to be kept alive.
He’s never conceded like this—not without being seduced into
sleep, swells of daylight seeping in reverie.
Most days I would slide him into his bed and wait there a moment—
one hand firm as to feel the rise and fall of his chest
until I could pull away, motionless, as if to will the weight of me
there for the duration of this intermission.
Today, as he lies unaccompanied on this bed on the floor
I’ll rest next to him—maybe I’m counting each breath
in abstinence, sober with regret that he is breakable.
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Featured image: Stash Eater Blanket by Brianna Mewborn. CC license.